New Zealand: Protesters highlight U.S. use of facilities

Participants in a weekend of actions Jan. 16-18 organized by the Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) are demanding the government’s satellite station in Waihopai Valley near Blenheim be closed. ABC spokesperson Murray Horton called the base New Zealand’s most important contribution to “America’s wars,” and said action against the station would be part of a nationally coordinated antiwar movement.

The two satellite interception dishes at Waihopai are said to be part of the worldwide Echelon system which intercepts telexes, faxes, e-mail and computer data communications.

“Phone and e-mail intercepts from Waihopai are automatically fed to partner agencies, particularly the U.S. National Security Agency,” Green MP Keith Locke said in an interview last week. “There is no question this information is used by the Bush administration for foreign policy objectives very different from our own.”

India: Tests show Coke is toxic

The Indian Parliament has banned the sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products in its cafeteria, following tests, including by the government, that found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, CorpWatch said last week. Some samples tested showed concentrations of toxins more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union.

The watchdog organization also said communities near Coca-Cola bottling plants experience severe water shortages as a result of the plants’ taking huge amounts of water from the common groundwater source.

As Coca-Cola’s public relations efforts have failed to cover up the problems, more and more communities are protesting against the giant multinational. CorpWatch said these demonstrations are increasingly met with force. Last September, armed security forces attacked a peaceful protest in Uttar Pradesh, seriously injuring some demonstrators. In August in Kerala, 13 activists were arrested during a peaceful protest and a movement leader was severely beaten by police.

South Africa: YCL emphasizes elections, public education

At its first meeting, the National Committee of the newly reconstituted Young Communist League highlighted the importance of youth participation in the upcoming national elections, and called for a Campaign for Free Quality Public Education.

“The ANC Election Manifesto is a strong basis and foundation upon which the needs, interests, concerns and aspirations of young people can be met,” the YCL said. “By registering as voters and taking part in the election campaign and process, young people will be ensuring that their concerns and views are also taken into account after the elections.”

The YCL is concerned about economic barriers to education for poor and working-class youth, about consolidating and increasing public funding of education, and about the growing impact of big business interests on education, the statement said.

Venezuela: Chavez says include Cuba

When he returned from the Extraordinary Americas Summit last week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for Cuba to be included in the inter-American system of nations.

“Why isn’t Cuba part of it? Who was consulted to exclude it? It is right that we should ask the countries of the region why Cuba isn’t there and not keep quiet when it is attacked in those forums,” Chavez said.

Responding to recent claims that Cuba and Venezuela are promoting political destabilization in Latin America, Chavez said he and Cuban President Fidel Castro are indeed destabilizers – of hunger and death. “Fortunately, we are not the only ones. Each day the destabilizers of death are more,” he said.

Chavez said the integration relations between Cuba and Venezuela can be viewed as an alternative to the neoliberal model promoted by advocates of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and reiterated that neoliberalism coming from the International Monetary Fund is the real political destabilizing force in the region.

U.K.: Union seeks to organize call center workers

The United Kingdom’s leading banking union, UNIFI, is preparing to organize among workers in India employed by Britain’s High Street banks, The Hindu reported earlier this month. UNIFI, representing 158,000 workers in the U.K., is working with the global trades union congress, Union Network International, to organize over 50,000 workers in call centers and data processing operations, the union said.

“We are very keen that when U.K. jobs go overseas, the people who get them can join a trade union,” said UNIFI National Secretary Rob O’Neill. “We can help to improve their terms and conditions through negotiation.”

Union Network International has already held meetings in Bangalore and Hyderabad to publicize the services provided by unions, and officials said the response was positive.

Staff at Indian call centers generally receive about 10 percent of the wages for similar work in the U.K., but that is more than comparable jobs usually pay in India.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (